With over 50% of Participants engaged in one or more teams here at Lambs Farm, the Special Olympics program of the Recreation Department is an integral part of their lives!
Since Lambs Farm’s early years, Co-founders Bob Therese and Corinne Owen envisioned recreation as an essential part of Participants’ lives. They continually called out to the community for volunteers who would teach and help organize sports options. Many Participants fondly remember playing softball games in the field where the Magnolia Café & Bakery now stands.
Special Olympics began in the 1950’s and the first International Summer Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1968. By the mid-1970’s the Lambs Farm recreational activities followed suit and began Special Olympic sports teams. Participant Libby Creigh remembers swimming at Special Olympic events as early as 1976.
Later in 1978, several Participants joined forces to form a Special Olympics basketball team. Through their determined efforts, they interviewed prospective players, held tryouts, organized pre-season games with staff and families, delegated a coach and even were able to find a gym to be able to practice and play games. These pre-season games garnered so much excitement that a cheerleading team was even formed!
“We just wanted to create a new experience for everyone. To give people a chance to learn, play and have fun,” said Participant Doug Wagner, one of the team members.
By 1981, the basketball team was not only posting a perfect season score of 10-0, they also won first place at the State Special Olympics games and won fourth place at the Regional Special Olympics games, competing against teams from the Midwest.
Tennis was also added in 1986 and the athletes competed in the first ever Special
Olympics tennis competition in June 1989! As interest grew at Lambs Farm for more sports options, teams were formed for floor hockey, bowling, bocce, snowshoe, golf and track and field.
Over the years, several Participants have had the chance to compete at the International Games. This is quite an accomplishment, as each competitor is nominated to be a part of the team based on their skill, independence and character. Current Participants, Libby Creigh, Kevin Donohue, Mike Kurschner and Jeff Tomaszek have all been on International teams throughout the past 30 years. Mike even won a bronze medal at the World Games in 1996 for tennis.
“I love Special Olympics,” Libby Creigh said about her time on the International team. “It gives you good goals to work for and the training keeps you going.”
As the Participants are aging, many of the athletic needs are changing as well. In order to meet these needs the Recreation department has made some important adjustments in the past year. For instance, an adapted sports option called Motor Activities Training Program was added to the team offerings for the first time last spring. This provides Participants a chance to gain new skills and to perhaps one day join or rejoin a Special Olympics team.
This summer, softball reintroduced as an official team for the Lambs Farm Participants. Due to Participants’ changing abilities and skills, this team will be in place of the tennis team. Overall, softball is less demanding on the body than tennis and it has a wider appeal as more people can play at the same time.
No matter the skill level or sport, Special Olympics continues to be an important part of life at Lambs Farm for the majority of Participants.
According to Recreation Manager Kreig Alm, “Special Olympics allows everyone to be an athlete, to set physical goals and stay physically active. Throughout the year, Participants have yet another thing to look forward to in their lives and share with others.”
Many opportunities exist each sports season to cheer on our teams and be a part of the excitement! Keep watch on our social media, e-newsletters and mailed newsletters for the latest information on each sports team.